Saskia’s husband Petar Jercic, and parents Maggie and Colin and family, announced Saskia’s sudden death in posts on their Instagram pages on the weekend.
“It is with broken hearts we need to let you all know that Saskia, our beautiful, extraordinary daughter, sister, wife and mother died unexpectedly yet peacefully in her sleep on Friday night,” the post said.
“The business Saskia grew and loved will continue on with me, her loving husband. We ask for time and space as we grapple to come to terms with our loss and appreciate all the support we have been given.”
The 46-year-old mother of three trained as a chef and established her own free-range and chemical-free business in the Barossa.
She grew up steeped in the Barossa food tradition, championed by her mother. Maggie Beer’s first product was her now-famous Pheasant Farm Pate – originally on the menu of her never-forgotten Pheasant Farm Restaurant.
Appropriately, Saskia received 1000 pheasants from her parents as a wedding gift, and used her knowledge of local produce and chef’s training to launch her own label – Barossa Farm Produce, in 1997.
With that, came also a focus on innovation.
In an interview published seven years ago, Saskia talked about the formative nature of her upbringing – dividing her time between the farm and vineyard run by father Colin, and the kitchen of her mother’s restaurant.
“I could see how mum would control her ingredients by telling dad what she wanted her pheasant to be like – that’s how I learned,” she said. “Growing the food and cooking it in our restaurant was fantastic – we were living it well before it became something sexy to do.”
She produced a range of locally-sourced poultry and pig products, but also sought to produce and market more unusual offerings such as milk-fed lamb, suckling pigs, and a range of game including ducks, geese, guineafowl, and turkeys.
Barossa Farm Produce became Saskia Beer Farm Produce, under which banner she was a regular stallholder at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market.
She also worked as a caterer and from 2015 to 2018 was culinary director of the Novotel Barossa Valley.
The announcement of Saskia’s death has led to an outpouring of grief from the Barossa community and the wider food community, many of whom were strong supporters of Saskia’s produce and approach.
Food writer Jill Dupleix, responding to Maggie Beer’s Instagram announcement, said that Saskia’s “talent, drive and commitment to delivering the very best of Australian produce was inspiring and should be recognised and appreciated”.
“She changed minds and hearts and created a new benchmark. My heart goes out to her family and friends, and let’s continue to support the business.”
Chef Kylie Kwong, who featured Saskia’s products in many of her restaurant menus, wrote: “Your beautiful, special, darling Sassy-girl … I am just so, so sad for all of you, I loved Sassy so much and hold you all very, very closely in my heart.”
– InDaily with AAP